Province gives distirct money for playgrounds

Recess at two Nanaimo elementary schools is about to get more fun.

Chase River Elementary School gets $50,000 for a new playground and Georgia Avenue Elementary School will receive $25,000 to replace some of the older equipment, the Education Ministry announced Thursday.

Last fall, the province made an $8-million playground funding commitment – an unusual step because historically, parent groups have been responsible for raising the money to put playgrounds at schools, although government money has sometimes gone toward grant programs that parent groups can access.

Nanaimo did not qualify for any funding in the first two rounds of handouts through the program, but in this third and final round of funding, 80 schools in all 60 school districts shared in the $3.3 million.

Pete Sabo, district director of planning and operations, said the province chose the district’s highest priorities for both a full playground replacement and an upgrade.

“I’m sure it will make a substantial difference at those schools,” he said. “We’re going to provide the PAC groups all the support we can.”

District staff will work with the schools and parents to determine the scope and time frame of the projects.

For Julie Addison, in charge of the Chase River parent group’s fundraising, the grant means the students won’t have to wait any longer – parents have been fundraising for a couple of years for a new playground and they figured it would take at least a couple more.

“We’ll be able to get a fancy park for $50,000,” she said. “I would love to see it done over the summer.”

There is little left of the current playground at Chase River because as the wood decays, staff have had to remove parts for safety reasons.

“I can’t believe how much the kids play on it even though it’s junky,” said Addison.

Shelley Green, principal of Georgia Avenue, said the school wants to replace its aging equipment, including some swings and slides that have been at the school for “a 100 years”, with more modern equipment.

“This is an absolute bonus,” she said. “It will give us another chunk.”

Playgrounds nowadays are more than just swings and slides, said Green.

She said the equipment allows students to play games and in teams, use their imaginations and develop fine motor skills, all of which readies them to learn.

“We certainly need it,” said Green.

Sabo said there are still several other schools that are in need of playground replacements or major upgrades, but the funding is welcome.

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